The evolution of Spanish sporting policy from the start of the transition to democracy until the 1990s
The arrival of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) to government in 1982 coincided with a clearly positive set of circumstances that had started to take place on an international level in 1975, with the aforementioned European Charter of Sports for All, and which was reflected in the diverse campaigns of ‘Sports for All’ which were rolled out from the mid-1980s onwards. At thesame time, the push from the implementation of the National Sports Act 13/ 1980 clearly favoured the increase of opportunities for the practice of sport in Spanish society.
Between the general elections of 1986 and 1993, a period which we could define as the second stage of socialist government, Spain experienced a phase of economic growth which coincided with their full integration into the European Economic Community in 1986. From the mid-1980s onwards, the governing party implemented policy which gradually distanced itself from its traditional social democratic stance, in order to embrace a newer, more liberal line. Sport became an essential part of Spanish culture, in winning over the collective cultural imagination and striving for the normalisation that was so desired. Two factors are key for understanding the evolution of physical and sporting activity in Spain from the 1990s onwards: the promulgation of the National Sports Act 10/1990, which revoked the previous law, and the celebration of the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992.
The new legal framework was centred on aspects related to the professional regulation of elite sport. This law was created two years before the Olympic Games were held, and it caused a clear increase in investment in competition sports, Olympic sports, and high-performance and technical sports centres. Spain would go on to achieve an historic milestone, winning 22 medals. This success was due in part to the implementation of the ADO Programme (Asociación de Deportes Olímpicos) in 1988, which aimed to ensure dignified economic and training conditions for the country’s best athletes. It is undeniable that, while the National Sports Act 13/1980 had focused on the démocratisation and development of sporting practice, the new legal framework of 1990 bestowed much less importance on Spanish citizens and ‘sport for all'. From this point onward, the task of promoting and encouraging sporting practice amongst the Spanish people fell to the autonomous communities and, above all, to the city councils. This means that, in the face of economic crisis, the financial resources provided for small- and medium-sized municipalities to carry out these tasks is drastically reduced, something which has a direct impact on society.
With regard to the development of the welfare state and the economic evolution of the country, 1990 marked the beginning of the end for the socialist programme of 1982. Despite everything, the state’s investment effort - facilitated by the large scale international events that were held in the country (the Olympic Games and the World’s Fair in Seville, both held in 1992) - afforded the modernisation of dilapidated and obsolete infrastructures. This was especially true in the travel sector (as much as in transport, roads, railways, ports and airports as in the provision of information), and in large urban areas (Barcelona, Seville and Madrid in particular) whose underdevelopment was preventing economic growth and the improvement of quality of life. But the economic scene would change radically in September 1992, commencing a phase of crisis, unemployment and inflation, which was accompanied by the aforementioned political decline of the PSOE. These factors meant that from the early 1990s the Spanish
Physical activity and sport in Spain 127 state had an impact on investment into high-performance facilities and in large international sports events, which in turn reduced interest in grassroots sports, schools sports and popular sports.